“The joint development of this program between the district administration and the teachers union really shows a commitment to professionalism.”
Implementing PAR requires sustained collaboration between the district and teachers union. Collaboration of any kind between labor and management can be hard to achieve because of the historically adversarial relationship between the two. One purpose of PAR—to provide a program in which teachers evaluate other teachers—often provokes opposition from both sides. Administrators may believe that evaluation is their responsibility, while union members may believe that peer review is fundamentally anti-union. PAR relies on the PAR Panel as a forum where labor and management work together to build a sense of common purpose and sustain PAR. However, in order for PAR to work well, collaboration must be apparent and exercised throughout the schools as well.
Labor-management collaboration in Minneapolis
Collaborating to design and implement PAR is not easy or routine. Traditional collective bargaining pits the union against management, but PAR is at its core a joint program between the two parties. In order for PAR to work, everyone from the bargaining table to the classroom must come to see peer assistance and evaluation as serving the interests of both students and teachers.
Despite the importance of collaboration, it’s not necessary for the parties to have resolved all their differences before embarking on PAR. In several districts we studied, the union and management found common ground in planning their PAR program, despite tensions and uncertainty about how it would work. This doesn’t happen overnight, though. Often leaders from the union and district carefully lay the groundwork for PAR months or even years before they settle on a design.
Most districts establish joint committees to design the program in detail and then their decisions are ratified in collective bargaining. Most districts carefully work out the details of their program well in advance of bargaining and present it as a complete package. Districts differ in whether they include the details of PAR in the contract or simply provide the basic elements and designate the PAR Panel as the governing body to make further decisions about its design and implementation.
The structure of the PAR Panel formalizes the labor-management collaboration that is central to the work of the program. The Panel’s regular meetings and procedures provide a blueprint for moving ahead, which can then be elaborated or amended as needed. If the program is to truly work, collaboration must extend to the schools as well. PAR depends on principals’ active participation just as it depends on CTs steady work, yet the process and procedures for such school-based collaboration are not yet well explained or understood.